Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Shadows of the soul: Exploring the transitory nature of the human spirit in response to the violence and trauma associated with terrorist phenomena
by Scott, K. Michelle, Ph.D., Nova Southeastern University, 2004, 250; 3318649
Abstract (Summary)

This analysis of survivor characterizations of their experiences, reactions and spiritual journeys during and since the September 11, 2001 (9.11) attacks on the United States of America was utilized to explore the transitory nature of the human spirit (Frankl, 1984) when confronted with terrorist violence. Through the intense examination of personal narratives given by 18 survivors of the (9.11) terrorist attack in Washington, DC, this qualitative study highlights apparent patterns and repetitive themes in survivor accounts of their experiences in the midst of and subsequent to the attack. The narratives were procured through a series of in-depth interviews conducted in Washington, DC during the months of April and May 2003.

The research findings of this study are substantive and confirmatory; they are supported with rich narrative data to enhance scholarly understanding of the human experience of terrorist-generated trauma and the paths taken by survivors to heal. The first finding of this study is that survivors' religious beliefs and faith can be especially activated during those moments when they perceive the greatest threat to their lives. The second finding involves survivors overwhelming belief that God is the author of their lives and as such, He saved their lives on September 11, 2001. The third key finding is also related to the concept of spiritual beliefs and it involves survivors' perceptions that in the midst of their struggle to survive they were unable to access their own resources so instead, they accessed those of God. The fourth finding is related to the topic of dispiriting trauma and indicates that although victims of terrorist violence do experience signs and symptoms of dispiritedness, it is unlikely that they will experience a spiritual death (Galtung, 1985). Fifth, the data from this study has indicated that conflict stimulates the transitory nature of the human spirit; consequently, experiences of conflict can be inherently transformative. A sixth finding was linked to a six-step model of the hero's journey motif and indicates that the Allies step of the journey is the most crucial to the survivor's healing process.

Unlike the first six findings, numbers seven through eleven are associated with the survivors' experience of trauma from a non-spiritual dimension. The seventh finding indicates that a survivor's perception of a secure base is entirely critical to his/her recovery. Eighth, the analysis of data demonstrated that trauma survivors who do not engage in behaviors consistent with their pre-conceived identities and self-perceptions will likely experience a series of negative emotions. The ninth finding indicates that the experience of trauma is an entirely subjective phenomenon, while number ten supports "transmission of trauma" theory by confirming that survivors of terrorist violence can unwittingly transmit their experience of the traumatic event. The eleventh finding of this study is that victims of terrorism will utilize rationalization and possibly self-deception techniques as defense mechanisms to preserve their sense of liberty from and control of future experiences of terrorism.

The findings of this study offer numerous insights for conflict resolution practitioners and scholars in a wide variety of fields. Ultimately, they provide deep insights into the human experience of conflict and how that experience might be structured for future analysis and resolution.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor:
Commitee:
School: Nova Southeastern University
School Location: United States -- Florida
Source: DAI-A 69/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Philosophy, Social psychology, Individual & family studies
Keywords: Dispiritedness, Human spirit, September 11, 2001, Spirit, Terrorism, Trauma, Violence
Publication Number: 3318649
ISBN: 9780549681700
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